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On the Theology of Post Mortem Publishing

Justin Joque has published a photo that  proves that your publishing record now reaches beyond the grave, or – more correctly – on the   grave.

He writes.

Just went for a walk in a cemetery and a guy has a QR code on his grave stone that links to a list of his publications and citation metrics.

He has anonymized the QR code, but here is the grave stone:

Gravestone with publication list. Photo Justin Joque.
Gravestone with QR code leading to publication list. Photo Justin Joque.

In the twitter thread Graeme Wood documents that this is not a new invention per se. Professors have been trying to impress from the other side of the curtain before as well (although without a complete list of publications).

Theologically speaking, the purpose of adding your list of publications to your grave stone is bewildering. Your career should be over by then.  It could be that they believe their  publications and citations will improve their chances of getting access to Heaven.

However, if that truly is the case that would mean that St. Peter himself is  in trouble. Admittedly, there are two letters published in his name in the New Testament (which has led to an impressive list of  citations),  but scholars doubt that he wrote them himself. This actually raises the specter of scientific fraud.

Maybe St. Peter is not the one watching the Gates of Heaven, after all, but St. Paul, who has a much more impressive publishing record. Maybe St.Peter is down under, together with all the failed scientists.

Dante in Purgatory, from the Divine Comedy, illustrated by Dore. Scientists carrying the burden of publishing metrics behind Dante.
Dante in Purgatory, from the Divine Comedy, illustrated by Dore. These are the scientists carrying the burden of publishing metrics.

If the number of papers in high quality journals  does influence your chances of entering heaven, Catholics are in a better position than Protestants. Catholics can spend some time in Purgatory before knocking on Heaven’s door, cleansing their soul and improving  their chances. If you spend a couple of hundred years over there, writing papers might bring you above the threshold.

We have reason to believe Elsevier has a monopoly on science publishing in Purgatory, and although most reviewers end up in Hell, there are apparently enough of them around to read these papers. It may take a few hundred years before you get your feedback, though.

Moreover, we are told that grants are not easily available in Purgatory. This is apparently part of the Catholic «purification through suffering» policy.

In any case, all of this brings new meaning to the term «Publish or Perish.»

Per Koch @perkoch

Main photo: Yuri_Arcurs